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FE colleges get a long overdue boost

The Augar Report on post 18 education in England, published last week, has recommended a shift in funding away from universities and towards further educational and vocational training.

The report, commissioned by Theresa May, has called for a cut in tuition fees and the use of replacement funds to support those institutions whose students go on to high-paying graduate jobs. It also heavily criticised universities that it said were offering ‘low value’ courses.

Will students end up having to pay more and will universities be pushed into ‘survival mode’ as a result of having to manage a potential cut of £2bn impacting teaching, research and infrastructure investment? Is it “bad policy, bad politics,” as a former universities minister Jo Johnson said?

The improved support for FE colleges, after a decade of cuts, and a move to encourage a shift in students from undergraduate courses to studying for diplomas and certificates that actually match employers’ needs should be welcomed.

Successive UK governments have failed to invest in non-university courses and training and the promised £3bn in extra funds for the sector, along with a £1bn capital funding boost could have a transformative impact.

The Office of National Statistics says that a third of graduates, including scientists, are not in graduate level jobs and while there are 300,000 university places there are only 10,000 degree grade apprenticeships in the UK.

Isn’t it time that the UK’s cash starved skills-oriented college sector got the type of funding the universities have enjoyed for many years? Or will this report go the same way as the Prime Minister who commissioned it?

Author
Neil Tyler

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